In trendsetting Tokyo, the styles, stories, and tastes of the time are constantly being reinvented across all genres of art. For lovers of contemporary oil painting, Galerie Nichido in Ginza has been keeping the field fertile for nearly a century.
Established in fashionable Ginza in 1928, Galerie Nichido boasts the longest history of any contemporary art dealer in Japan. According to Chieko Hasegawa, vice president of the family-run institution, its staying power has to do with the sure-footed way it has kept ahead of the times.
Hasegawa herself has been at the very center of Japan’s international art world throughout her long career. Galerie Nichido launched its Paris branch in 1973. Subsequent openings in Nagoya, Fukuoka, Karuizawa, and Taipei, and even a museum in Ibaraki, followed. As chair of the Japan Art Dealers Association (JADA) from 1994 to 2008, she played a key role in assembling the collections of numerous museums across Japan. And she is passionate about introducing the works of exciting up-and-coming Japanese artists to the world.
Showa-kai, the annual competitive exhibition Nichido established in 1965 for paintings, sculptures, and other works, has been running for more than five decades. The prestigious event has become a robust magnet for talent, enabling Nichido to offer both independent and organizational buyers alike a unique selection of pieces by new and established art stars.
A visit to the Ginza gallery is an opportunity to admire and purchase the works on the walls, as well as to chat with Hasegawa and possibly even draw out a few of her colorful anecdotes amassed over a long career traversing the globe and hobnobbing with giants. She interviewed Salvador Dali, and has been captured on canvas herself by the likes of American pop art legend Andy Warhol, Israeli kinetic artist Yaacov Agam, Italian sculptor Giacomo Manzù, French painter André Brasilier, French comics artist Pierre Christin, French photographer Antoine Poupel, French-Armenian artist Jean Carzou, and the American photojournalist David Douglas Duncan, not to mention some 20 celebrated artists from Japan.
As chair of JADA Hasegawa produced a number of significant traveling exhibitions, including one in 2008 that covered half a century of Western-style painting in Japan. Presenting the works of a dozen Japanese artists who had sojourned in Paris in the early twentieth century, it explored how they integrated certain aspects of Western painting to establish a completely original approach to the canvas. For her many accomplishments promoting art-based exchanges between the two countries, she was decorated by the government of France in 2009 with the Legion of Honor (Officer), that country’s highest decoration for civil merit.
Thanks to the charismatic Hasegawa, visitors to Galerie Nichido can enjoy the great breadth and depth of styles in Tokyo’s art scene in an ultimately intimate and accessible way.